Category Archives: SSRI withdrawal

Self-medication and depression

Depression is creeping back in through a side door.  I should have seen it coming.  Even reading my most recent posts on this blog are clues that it was making a reappearance.

Ruminations.  Negative self-perception. Exhaustion even without alcohol.  Hating my husband and my life.

I saw my therapist on Saturday and she raised the Wellbutrin to 100 mg. and lowered the Klonopin to half a 0.5 mg pill.  I continue to take 20 mg Celexa.  Lynn must think my depression is worse and the Klonopin is making me tired.  It’s been 4 days with a higher dose of the SSRI and still not feeling better.  My plan is to continue lowering the Klonopin but since I use it to sleep I fear insomnia so I’m tapering off gradually.

My resolve is down and I am weak right now.  I broke my 100-plus streak of sober days and drank on Saturday night.  It’s odd how I really don’t feel that bad about it.  In fact, I liked the tranquility.  Sad but true, self-medication is what I know when my thinking turns against me.

♥ Daylily ♥

Glad to see the weekend go…

I did not take good care of myself this weekend. Knowing I am not going to see my therapist again for a month gave me carte blanche to self-destruct with no one to notice but myself. When you have the same family members around you day in and day out, they tend to (at least my husband and kids do) not notice much about what I’m doing. Short of dyeing my hair green, they don’t look my way. I drank more than a typical person’s share of white wine in the evenings and bit my fingernails down to stubs. I had ten perfectly short but healthy fingernails and now 7 of them are bit to shit. It was so painful to expose the raw skin underneath that I slept with an antibiotic and band aids on my fingertips. Why the fuck do I do that to myself? I don’t know exactly what the nervousness stemmed from but it quite possibly could be the awareness of my Klonopin medication being so carefully monitored. See my last post for more on that but, suffice it to say, I do not like the idea of habitually taking a “controlled substance.” It’s making me nervous.

I experimented with getting off the drug. Saturday evening I did not take Klonopin and my night was a bit restless with a stomach ache and gas pains but it wasn’t anything too bad. Last night, Sunday, I skipped the dose, too, and I was awake with stomach pains for over 3 hours. Finally, at 4:30 am I took half of my 0.5 dose. I fell back to sleep before having to get up for work 2 hours later. UGH.

Today’s been a rough Monday. I went to work with bitten up nails, sleep deprivation, plus a slight hangover from not being able to resist finishing the open bottle of wine in my fridge last night. I left work early, cancelled all meetings and went straight to bed where I threw a pillow over my head. I slept for 2 hours until I had to get up and take my son to the physical therapist. Then it was time to help the younger son with his homework, make dinner and then go back to work for a few hours to catch up for having left early.

I wasn’t telling the completely truth about my family not noticing me this weekend. My husband did seek out intimacy Sunday morning but I was so mad for getting woken up early that I pretended to sleep through his actions and then fell back into a deep sleep when he was done. I was feeling hung-over from too much wine the night before and I was self-conscious about my fingers. My husband likes to see me touch myself, which I play along with usually but it was embarrassing that 2 fingers had band aids on them. (This is comical in a twisted sort of way and I can laugh at myself!) Although my husband did his thing and I pretty much slept through it, I was awake enough to feel ashamed that I am my own worst enemy. Getting drunk and biting my nails hurts only me. I have got to change my ways.

Tonight I’m going to take the full Klonopin dose because I can feel the stomach pains coming on. I was testing the waters and I see it’s going to be a rough ride. I don’t need to deal with withdrawing from that med right now.

Well, I’m relieved the weekend is over and I can get back on the right track. I need to stop drinking, sleep better and clear my head. One of these weekends I’m going to continue the good progress I keep up all week and go through a weekend without self-destructing. I don’t need to hit rock bottom I need only to want a better life for myself bad enough to make the right changes. Sounds so simple.

Self-medication backfired and I’m in worse shape

I knew I shouldn’t have had that red wine last night. Now I can vouch for why people say migraine sufferers shouldn’t drink red wine. I ended up calling my doctor today after 12 hours of a painful migraine that began at 5 am and did not respond to my usual drug protocol of Imitrex and Ibuprofen. I even threw in a Sudafed this morning just in case the headache was sinus related. No relief. I had throbbing head pain all through my work day and so I tried taking my Wellbutrin at 2:00 this afternoon. I thought Hey, maybe it’s SSRI withdrawal. Nope, no such luck. I tried to take an afternoon nap but I couldn’t even do that because the pain was so terrible. Here’s the thing about me, I have a high threshold for pain because most of the time I go through the daily motions feeling crappy so I’ve learned to block pain reception. I gave birth to 2 children without pain meds and I never cried out in pain (just a lot of moaning). Today, this migraine pain was worse than childbirth and it had me crying on the phone to my doctor. End of story is my doctor prescribed a prednisone taper but I still have a mild headache after taking the first dose. What I need is sleep so I hope I get it tonight. With the crappy day I’ve endured, I called in sick tomorrow and got myself a substitute. Mostly because I don’t know how the steroid is going to affect my sleep and mood. I’ve never been on a steroid so let’s hope it lifts me up and doesn’t make me angry and manic.

A few thoughts about all of this:

  1. When I was crying out in pain from a headache I forgot I was depressed.
  2. Real physical pain is nice because there’s no stigma attached to it.
  3. Reminder: never drink red wine again. It wasn’t worth it.
  4. I wonder how the prednisone is going to affect my new antidepressant.
  5. I feel like a walking pharmacy.
  6. When I see the therapist on Saturday I won’t know what to tell her because I’ve been feeling so awful. This last one can be a post by itself.
  7. I look forward to a 3 day weekend.

Experiment failed. Back on Antidepressants…

I saw Lynn, the therapist, for my depression. I drank an entire bottle of wine the night before and at 5 a.m. a migraine hit. I took my usual combination of 800 mg. Ibuprofen and 1 Imitrex followed by one more Imitrex 2 hours later. I added some caffeine to further reduce inflammation in my brain and it wasn’t long before I was out of bed amongst the living. I did not want to go to my 9 a.m. therapy session because I was tired, hung over, depressed and with a throbbing headache. However I did go. I remembered a time when I had a sigmoidoscopy which is a scope inserted into the rear end. The day of the test, I woke up with diarrhea and cramping so I called the Dr’s office to see if I should reschedule. The receptionist responded, “Great! We like to do the procedure when the problem is present.” The idea is the same as me seeing Linda when I am at my worst. In this way, she will see what is wrong, rather than what is right, although, I would much prefer to not expose my weakness to anyone.

So, off I went to the therapist. Lynn and I discussed my current sense of unrest. She gave me a word for my worrying, called it “rumination” and said it is a symptom of my depression. I definitely am ruminating over my own pathetic life (which I say sardonically, and somewhat humorously, as that is the problem).

Lynn pitches all kinds of medication names at me, most I’ve heard of but never tried. Klonopin, Xanax, Traxonal, Wellbutrin and others I can’t recall. The fear I have of side effects prevent me from jumping for joy over her suggestions. I question the addictiveness of the anxiety medications and she responds that “alcohol is addictive.” A moment of silence ensues and then a stare-down. She follows the pitch with admonition that if I was to take Klonopin or Xanax I must not drink. I agreed that I did not want to drink and would consider the anti-anxiety meds.

I fear my own ability to self-regulate, as I’ve been known to ingest pain medication when I’m not experiencing any pain, because it takes away all feelings, depressive ones included. I have never gotten it illegally but if there is Vicodon or Percocet left over from surgery it does not stay in the house for long. I know that a medication prescribed for me would be acceptable to take for reducing anxiety since that would be the point of the prescription. So, what’s my problem that I feel so guilty with needing help with my mental health? If I had a broken leg, I wouldn’t hesitate to accept the treatment so I could walk again.

The hang up I have around my depression is certainly counterproductive to getting the treatment I need to get well.

Lynn and I agreed that a very low dose of Wellbutrin would be a safe and simple treatment plan to begin with. I looked up the dosage she prescribed and it is how elderly people are treated (and even they get more). I will try 50 mg once a day. Not the extended release variety because I am fearful of being too tired around the clock. The elderly take 50-100 mg 2 or 3 times a day. I will take it once, in the evening. Lynn tells me it could cause excitability but I highly doubt it. I explained my paradoxical response to most medications. If the drug is supposed to make me sleep, I tend to stay awake. Medications such as Benadryl, Tylenol PM, Sudafed, etc. all make me wired. All antidepressants, thus far, have made me feel tired.

Here’s the plan. I’m going to get through the next week at work and the day after Christmas I will begin Wellbutrin. If that doesn’t work well, Lynn has suggested we add Xanax, as needed, for anxiety. I feel like it’s an admission of defeat that I cannot control my own thoughts. Tears are stinging my eyes as I write those words. I do not want this depression but I must accept the diagnosis. I guess the doctors were right; I’m one of those people that will need to be on medication for life. Now, I’m going to go and allow myself a good cry. At least when I’m off medication, I can do that.


1 Month off My Antidepressant…

The familiar anxiety and self-loathing befalls me. The manner in which I view myself, from the 3rd person in a derogatory way, is a sure sign of depression. I feel a bit hung up by this blog so I am going to revert back to the way I freely write if I were to be writing in my personal journal for no one’s eyes but my own. For many years I liked to write in my journal because I used it as a dumping place –with no judgment or opinions. I need that right now because I feel shitty. Read with caution, this is from the mind of a person suffering from depression…

My mind is just beating me up since I got off of Pristiq. I feel my psychological state is like a train wreck, cars piling up on top of cars. It’s not enough that I feel down on myself but I self-condemn and bring in this self-hate thing. I never speak up for what I need and then I suffer through shit I don’t care about. Double trouble.

The big question I have for myself today is Why the hell is a competent, intelligent 40-year-old (definitely mature) woman in such as a place that I have no goals in life or a drive to do something more than what I’m doing?

What’s wrong with me that I don’t have fantasies, goals and aspirations? Something terrible must have happened in my childhood to make me unworthy of dreams.

How sad that I don’t dream to do or be something more. I drag myself through the day-to-day crap of this life and that will be it until the day I die. There must be a reason I don’t fantasize for a better life. I prefer to sit and wallow in my unhappiness.

My husband loves me but I don’t often ask him for anything. When I do, he says he doesn’t have time or he’s got other things to do. I hate that he isn’t supportive but I’m more sad that I’m in a relationship with a guy that I let get away with doing whatever he wants while I settle for nothing. For example, I asked my husband if he would wrap presents on his day off tomorrow so our kids don’t find unwrapped gifts before Christmas – they are getting older and I’m sure they are looking for presents (I know I did as a kid). His reaction was practically a stab in the back – just leave him alone and he’ll decide what he is going to do. Of all things, he said, “I’ve still got to do something for our anniversary.” (That’s this Sat). My reply, “Just get me a card, that’s all I need.”

I am nothing. Not worthy of effort, time, energy, things, help.

There’s something wrong with me, I just know it. I can’t see the good behind my self-pity. Tonight, after dinner, my husband and boys helped clear the table and load the dishwasher. I didn’t even ask. I also didn’t say thank you. I should be happy that I have their help… but I can only see what isn’t being done.

Why do I not ask for things, dream like others? Expect good things in my life?

Lastly, my self-loathing is so strong that I fear my next appointment with the new therapist in 2 days. My mood has changed dramatically since she took me off the antidepressant. I have thought of cancelling because I don’t like to expose my weaknesses and be in need. I liked it better when I was happy and moving forward. But, I will find the strength inside me to go to the appointment and be vulnerable ….

Childhood Amnesia

I don’t actually think my childhood made me depressed because others who have had a more difficult childhood do not suffer from similar mental health issues. This includes my husband whose mother left him when he was 5 years old. Yes, he feels a sense of loss but it doesn’t bring him into a major depressive episode.  Whereas, my childhood experiences cause a strong sense of loss and sadness for what happened and what could have been. My husband tells me I don’t let memories go like other people do. He’s right — I can’t leave behind this feeling of having been cheated, misunderstood and abused.

Let me tell you a bit about my upbringing. I grew up with 3 brothers and it is quite odd that my brothers do not have the same perspective of our childhood. They feel fortunate to be in the exact same family that I perceive as incompatible. I mostly remember an isolated loneliness and my brothers remember fun times with a bonded family. I see myself on the outside looking in, sometimes a part of the fun but only fleetingly. Is this dichotomy a result of having suffered from major depression in childhood or is it a result of my childhood?

I grew up in an affluent suburb in Greenwich, CT (USA).  It was not the backwoods mansion area but those people’s taxes went into the same money pool to provide even the middle class, such as my family, with exceptional schools, libraries, parks, camps and most auspiciously, its own private town beach. My parents and grandparents went to college and all are well-educated with backgrounds in education or academia, in general. This type of family dynamics works well for intellectually fact-based kids but I experienced everything through my feelings. I was an average student who was super sensitive on the inside. My parents didn’t know how to connect with me.

Physical affection was lacking in my youth and I felt neglected. My brothers got a lot of attention from their competitiveness — playing soccer, baseball, Frisbee and football in the backyard. I played, too, but more for the attention that I craved because god knows, I wasn’t competitive and had no desire to beat anyone at anything. If I won in a game I would feel bad for the loser. But, these backyard games with my dad after dinner would give me a closeness I yearned for. My sense is that my dad didn’t hold and kiss me like other dad’s. There’s a photo of him with my cousin on his lap and I feel sad that I don’t recall him ever holding me like that. My dad liked to play board games, read books and play chess. I learned to also enjoy such activities because there is an intimacy in those behaviors, albeit intellectual. My mom was always in the background handling the everyday, mundane household chores. I avoided all-things-mom and I’m not sure why. Perhaps she was depressed herself and didn’t let me in. Did she hide inside the home, in the kitchen or with housework? Most times, she let all hell break loose between my brothers while my dad was at work and most certainly after my parents divorced. I really don’t remember her connecting with me in any manner. 

Here’s the clincher with all I just shared about my childhood. I don’t remember specific details. I have what is referrred to as “selective amnesia,” most likely brought on by childhood sexual abuse. I can’t recall bestfriends (except my first one), not many teacher’s names, and no specific times or events (except the feelings from events around sexual abuse.)  My brothers remember it all and had a great time growing up in the same family that I can’t remember anything until about age 13 when I started rebelling with drugs and alcohol.  I regret this major break in my memory because I lost all of the positive stuff.  For one, intellectually I know my mom took good care of me and my basic needs were met.  I am reassured that I was cherished as her only daughter but I don’t have a sense of that.

It is very bizarre that my childhood is this whole visceral sensation of disconnectedness from others. Was this early depression? Or was this a symptom of childhood sexual abuse? I’m willing to guess that it’s most probably the latter that caused the former. Early sexual abuse caused depression or, I wonder, was my depression caused from being so different from the rest of my family? I’d have to guess, all of the above plus the fact that no one recognized or celebrated my differences.

All of this left me with an inferiority complex. My entire family seemed contented except for me. So, I played along and acted through my entire early and middle childhoods that we were all as happy as it seemed. I was a square peg in a round hole for most of my early life experiences.

Depression Shows Up Without an Invitation

Hey, I did not invite you, depression. If nothing else, I’ve spent the last month trying to prepare for your attack and keep you away. What are you doing here?

Here’s a fact – I don’t need studies or documentaries to prove this because I live it. Depression cannot be outwitted by an intelligent, savvy person. Male or female, smart or-not-so smart, depression happens because of an imbalance in brain chemistry.

The reason I know this is because when I’m lucid – off all meds and not depressed – I know what normal thinking is. I am what is considered normal and I believe everyone else is the same.

Our beliefs and feelings change when depressive thoughts intrude into our thinking.

You and I know these thoughts are not us but we also feel different because they have entered our thinking and become us.

How unfair, that smart people can be attacked by something in their brain.

It totally pisses me off that I suffer from depression without my approval.

“Depression? Is that you?”

Why do I feel as if I’m going to cry for no reason? Why am I so sensitive? Why have I been waking up at 3 with worry and anxiety? I’ve not been drinking and I’ve been a good girl, doing everything I should do to keep depression at bay.

I’ve been off Pristiq for 26 days and I can only say I’m scared right now and I want to yell out every single curse I know. I’m angry that my hope for complete healing from depression may have been a false hope. I feel little signs of depression returning and I’m confused and scared. I wanted to be cured. I don’t want a mental illness because I can’t stand the negative side effects of the antidepressants. I feel like I’m going to cry, my heart is heavy and my sadness is palpable.

I was diagnosed with major depression 10 years ago and I’ve been treated with numerous anti depressants. My Dr and a psychiatrist told me I will most likely always be on medication for my depression. I am currently testing that statement by seeing how I do without meds. I have a therapist that I see every two weeks, which doesn’t feel like much but I’ve seen a couple of long-term therapists so I guess I know what I’m getting into. At least, I thought I did because I believed I was going to feel great without meds and my depression would be miraculously gone. I would manage negative feelings and thoughts with what I know is how I should be feeling and with meditation. As if, depression is as simple as staying aware of my thoughts so I could segment the negative stuff from my everyday thinking. Not so. Depression creeps in through the cracks. It’s just not as simple as keeping my wits about me, meditating or not drinking alcohol. I’m doing all that, damn it.

Look at me, even my thoughts are not flowing like they were a couple of days ago. I’ve lost my clarity and focus. Shit.

We are as happy as we make up our minds to be (Abe Lincoln)

That saying is fitting and I like the simplicity of it. I believe good old Abe was onto something. (The quote was taken from the book, Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow by K. Casey)

Technically speaking, I am not in a major depressive episode but I fear I could easily fall back into its clutches. I must stay one step ahead of my depression while I’m not depressed because we all know, once the brain chemistry goes haywire, it’s near impossible to escape without medication – one of the things I’m trying to avoid.

I’m feeling rather melancholy due to a very heartfelt documentary that I saw this evening. I empathized so much with the characters and their life’s struggle that a familiar sadness is here in the room with me. The character’s problems became my problems but, of course, I cannot heal them or control their situation. In fact, I do not even know them so why am I so upset by the movie? Helplessness. I fear this feeling can trigger depression if I don’t do something different that what I usually do.

“Feeling constantly helpless can upset our endocrine balance, elevating the immunosuppressant hormone cortisol and destroying its natural diurnal rhythm. Chronic helplessness also depletes the brain of the vital neurotransmitter norepinephrine, the chemical in our brain that is necessary for feelings of happiness and contentment.”

Further – “The inability to feel in control of stress, rather than the stressful event itself, is the most damaging to immunity.” (Minding the Body, Mending the Mind by J. Borysenko)

So, what to do with this stress and helplessness I feel? I had the usual urge to drink but I’m not going to because, overall, I’ve been feeling energetic and clear-headed off the Pristiq. For the last month, my alcohol consumption has gone way down and I’m glad that I’m making headway. Alcohol screws up my sleep cycle, which can further effect my mood during the day. Bottom line, alcohol is a depressant and I don’t want to jeopardize the gains I’m making.

I need to decide where to begin if I want to change my coping strategies. Here’s what I’m thinking I’m going to try – meditation!

Okay, so you feel down. Don’t run from it or try to mask it with alcohol or drugs. Learn to just be in the moment with the feelings, without judgment.

I will try to meditate, not an easy task for a hyper-sensitive person who always feels ready for flight or fight. But, meditation will help me create a lowered state of arousal which in turn will reduce this helplessness (stress) I feel. I will do as the Buddhist does and recognize life is suffering and that’s okay. Our attitudes about the suffering can create more suffering and attitudes can be changed. So, off I go to meditate before bed, to try to recognize the lingering sadness from the movie and then to see it as a passing feeling and to let it go…

MY GOAL — To manage my anxiety and depression without mood altering chemicals, such as alcohol or antidepressants.

Cry No More – Holding onto happiness like a constrictor…

This has been a productive week for me. I’m feeling good in terms of my personal growth. 5 things jump out at me:

  1. I’ve been off Pristiq for 3 weeks
  2. I feel peaceful for the first time in years
  3. I went to another support group, Women for Sobriety, to help with my excessive wine drinking
  4. I saw my therapist (for the 3rd time) and she made me believe I may not need drugs for depression (at least not now—yippee!)
  5. Tonight I told my husband of 22 years about getting off antidepressants and that made all of this real to me. He said Good for you and meant it.

Wow, this is real-life shit and I’m living it…

What a tremendous feeling to actively be making positive steps toward a future that does not have a vision of me depressed, crawling through the days by eating, drinking and sleeping too much.

I’ve got to wrap myself around this sensation so that I can trap it — like my son’s corn snake when he catches a fuzzy rodent dinner. There’s no way the snake is letting his catch get away and I want that for my new-found sense of contentment.

I know I must work hard but I am ready…♥

I love reptiles, rodents & amphibians. Their needs are so primitive that no thought or feeling is involved in anything they do. Think about it… anyone with a mental illness can only wish for such a simple life. Imagine!